Review & Comments Policy


Book Review Code of Conduct

Most of the books reviewed by Lisa Hill on this blog are either from my own extensive collection, from a library or a gift or loan from a friend, but since late 2009 I have also reviewed titles received courtesy of  publishers.  Any books submitted to me for review after 7.9.09 declare the source, usually at the bottom of the page.

I use the word ‘review’ loosely.  I’m not a professional critic or journalist, and I’m not being paid to write anything on this blog.  I’m a teacher with a long-ago degree in English and a lifetime of reading literary fiction and the classics behind me.  This blog is my claim to a small patch of cyberspace – somewhere between academic analysis and gee-i-loved-this-book gushing – so that I can share my journeys through books with as many people who care to read my blog.

What I write is my honest response.  I appreciate that authors work hard at their books, and I aim to be fair and objective but if I don’t like a book or consider it unworthy of my time as a reader with a huge TBR, I say so.  If I really dislike a book, I try to find a more positive review somewhere online and post a link to it, with a recommendation that readers should make up their own minds.  The exception to this is if I think the book is so woeful that it doesn’t deserve it.   (Max Cairnduff of Pechorin’s Journal has written much that I agree with about this issue).  I try to be mindful of the pitfalls identified by Angela Bennie in Creme de la Phlegm, especially regarding my own limitations.

I am open to receiving books for review on the following basis.

  • Books will only be accepted for review if they are the sort of book I would normally buy or borrow from the library. I no longer review uncorrected proof copies because I like to be able to quote excerpts to showcase the author’s style, to comment on the cover design and to review the book in its final form, as it will be read by other readers. I don’t review eBooks or netGalley versions. (This is underlined and in bold because so many people ignore it!)
  • Books sent for review will have to jostle for priority on the TBR along with everything else.  I try to read review copies within 2-3 months but it doesn’t always happen.
  • The source of any books sent to me for review will be acknowledged.
  • I reserve the right to donate unsolicited books that I don’t want to read, or books I start but can’t bear to finish to the Op Shop, or as Giveaways on the blog.

This blog is currently garnering about 10000+ hits per month and passed the 500,000 hits milestone in July 2014.  Publishers may contact me regarding book reviews at ANZ LitLovers by emailing anzlitloversatbigponddotcom.  There is useful advice for authors or publishers wishing to pitch their books to bloggers at Leeswammes’ BlogSimon Savidge also has some useful suggestions, especially the one about not clogging up bloggers inboxes with pdf.s of your book.

My interests can be seen by browsing the genres I’ve reviewed:

  • Australian and New Zealand literary fiction, contemporary and classic
  • International Literary Fiction, including books in translation (especially Asian).
  • New translations and editions of classic literature, ancient and modern
  • Biography and autobiography (no celebrities or sporting heroes, please!)
  • Australian and New Zealand history
  • Occasional foodie books
  • Occasional books about art & artists, and classical music and musicians.

I’d like to read more New Zealand titles than I do: it’s surprisingly difficult to find out about new releases from across the Tasman and I welcome contact from New Zealand publishers and their publicists.

I read poetry, but I don’t review it.

I don’t usually read, and therefore have no interest in reviewing:

  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal & Speculative Fiction
  • Self-help books
  • Short stories (Novellas of 100+ pages are ok)
  • Romance and ChickLit
  • True Crime
  • Family histories
  • Weepy or sentimental memoirs and memoirs of motherhood or having horrible diseases
  • True Adventure stories
  • Crime or Detective Fiction/Suspense/Mystery
  • Anything reliant on popular culture and especially not about sport
  • Young adult fiction
  • So-called Women’s Fiction
  • Doorstoppers, airport novels, thrillers (the gold lettering on the cover genre)
  • (So-called) erotica
  • Self published books* (This is a decision that I have come to out of respect for the work that editors do, and if you think you are the exception that will change my mind about this, read this first. Carefully.)

* Please note that authors who send requests that I review their book without disclosing that it’s self-published will not receive a reply.

* Please also note that I’m getting a bit tired of spending my time writing polite replies to people who obviously haven’t bothered to read any of the above.  So, depending on how (un)forgiving I’m feeling, you might not get a reply either.

Update 28.5.14: Transparency statement

As of May, the only Affiliate program I belong to is Fishpond.  This means that I get a small commission if viewers click on the Fishpond logo in the RHS menu or one of the links to a specific title and subsequently buy a book from them.   I am supporting this venture because they stock Australian and New Zealand titles in both local and international editions, and they deliver within Australia for free.  I support them in the same way that I support the other booksellers listed, because they give good, prompt and reliable service.  The small commission, if it ever amounts to anything, may help to pay for my bookbuying habit, but it won’t influence my opinion of a book.  The links also provide a convenient summary of the book at the Fishpond website.

I would like to acknowledge Caribou’s Mum, DoveGrey Reader, Australian Literature Diary and Reading Matters as sources of some ideas in this Code of Conduct.

Comments Policy

  • Language and Manners: This blog is ‘family friendly’ and ‘conversation friendly’.  I welcome intelligent debate, lively disagreements, respectful disputes and corrections of fact regarding blog content & comments.  I delete insults, bad language, rudeness, racism or personal attacks on me or on other contributors.  I blog for pleasure, not to provide a forum for people to be unpleasant to me or anyone else.
  • Style: This is a general blog for intelligent readers of literary fiction; it’s not a place for extensive academic debate.  Please be guided by the tone of the blog post and the comments of other contributors.
  • Authenticity & trust: Commenters supplying phony email addresses will be deleted and/or blocked.  I prefer contributors to provide a first name rather than an anonymous moniker; it feels friendlier.   I reserve the right to shut down comments if I think that the post is being hijacked by publicity or marketing interests, or if I think the book is exploitative or morally repugnant.  WordPress’s Akismet automatically deletes spam.
  • Limit Links: Comments with more than one URL link will usually be deleted.  I don’t want to spend my time checking that such URLs are legitimate, ‘family friendly’ and relevant.  That said, if you quote content from elsewhere, please acknowledge its source.
  • Hold Harmless: All comments within this blog are the responsibility of the commenter, not the blog owner, administrator, contributor, editor, or author. By submitting a comment on this blog, you agree that the comment content is your own, and you agree to hold this site, ANZ LitLovers and its owner and other contributors harmless from any and all repercussions, damages, or liability.

Thanks to Michelle of orangejuice@yahoo.com …who is the inspiration for this policy, and to the Blog Herald for their wise advice and suggestions.

Responses

  1. I found your website by accident whilst trying to find out if a Sanditon film was being made. I read Sanditon (JA and Another Lady who I believe to be Marie Dobbs) many years ago and it is one of my favourite books along with P&P and Persuasion.

    As my usual reading is SF, Hornblower, Alistair Maclean and technical books (mech eng), I have little to offer by way of critical comments on romantic novels but I find criticism of the above Sanditon to be way out of line, In many cases the completed version above is not even mentioned. I think that if JA had written the words of this version, the same critics would would be praising it to the rooftops and saying how she had taken her writing to a new level!

    If anyone knows of a Sanditon film in the making or of other books by Marie Dobbs, I would like to know.

  2. What an amazing blog. I have just started in a new role, “Literary Events and Project Coordinator” and a lot of my focus will be on contemporary Australian writers.
    Cheers

    • Hello, Fiona, and welcome! I love the sound of your new job!
      Lisa

  3. Hi Lisa,
    yes it is fantastic because can you imagine combining your love of Aust/NZ writing with paid work. It is three days per week, which is meant to enable me to do some writing, but so far other things keep stealing the time. It is based in a large regional library (Geelong).
    Already we have enjoyed some great guest writers, such as Alan Carter and soon we have Nick Earls coming.
    Cheers Fiona

    • That sounds great! My local library runs a good program that sounds similar…many of the events are on in the daytime when I can’t go, but there have been a few author events at night and it’s been really nice to attend those.
      Re ‘stealing the time’ my advice is to be firm with yourself. The only time I ever needed an extension at university was when I had study leave and only worked 3 days a week and that was because I was working for 4 days, one of them unpaid. Don’t do it!

  4. Yes I agree totally about balancing work, kids and writing! I have just seen that July is Alison Wong’s novel. I also have her as a guest on a Sunday afternoon, she has recently moved to Geelong. Nick Earls is an evening talk.
    Cheers

    • Well, Fiona, you can do me a favour, if you would be so kind? When you meet up, could you please ask Alison if she would be interested in being the first Kiwi author to be featured in my Meet an Author series, (See http://tinyurl.com/6f5awjp) and ask her to contact me at gunung2ATgmaildotcom?
      My readers love this series but it depends entirely on me being able to contact authors and ask them if they’re willing to do it!

  5. Lisa, what does an author have to do to get a book to you for review? (My War & Peace and Sonya is now out and I ‘d love your response.
    Judith Armstrong

    • HI Judith – email me at anzlitloversatbigponddotcom and I’ll email you back with my postal address.
      Cheers
      Lisa

  6. Lisa, have you read any books by the Australian author, Janette Turner Hospital? She was at the Wheeler Centre last night and gave a very interesting talk on her writings. Her new books is short stories, Forecast Turbulance. She was born in Victoria, but lived in Queensland for most of her young life, and now lives in Canada. She also has lived in India and America. She never saw a film until she was 20, as she grew up in a very religious household. No television, no radio but she was allowed to read books! Her writings are a bit on the dark side, a bit sad but very thoughtful and good reads.

    Meg

    • Hi Meg, yes I have: I’ve read Oyster and Due Preparations for the Plague – both very good books that deserve more recognition. (I read them both before I started this blog or they would have been reviewed here.) I’ve got something of hers on the TBR, so there will be a review here one day!

  7. [...] Review & Comments Policy [...]

  8. Hi Lisa
    I value your judgement and would like you to review Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, The Signature of all Things. It is released this week and most reviews have been favourable but I’m not sure if it is just that many reviewers are in awe of Gilbert after her success with Eat, Pray,Love. I agree that the book is immaculately researched but I’m not sure if it works in keeping the interest of the reader. I’d like an unbiased opinion like yours when you get a chance to look at it (Warning: it is quite a tome)

    • Hi Bernadette, what a lovely compliment, thank you!
      I must admit, I saw a review of this in one of the weekend papers, and briefly wondered about it. I am even more dubious now when my search for the online version of that review provides a link for me to watch a You Tube video of the author using the doubters’ expectations as part of her ‘deeply sincere’ and ‘humble’ marketing campaign. Not only that but the SMH reviewer is Caroline Baum, not one of the usual stable of reviewers that I read because she tends to admire heart-warming a.k.a. sentimental stories, and I don’t. I must be the only person in the universe not to have read or seen Eat, Pray, Love, but you know if you read this blog that I am (on the basis of my reading experience) deeply suspicious of hype. I get caught out occasionally but these days I tend to trust my distaste for popular culture rather than the marketing campaign.
      Janet Maslin at the NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/books/elizabeth-gilberts-novel-the-signature-of-all-things.html) gracefully confirms my doubts. I’m not bothered about 512 pages, but I’ve got no intention of buying The Signature of All Things, sorry! I will, however, bear your interest in mind if I see it at the library (or if the publisher sends it to me).
      Cheers
      Lisa

  9. Hi Lisa,
    I think Gilbert is being honest in claiming that The Signature … Is very different to Eat, Pray, Love. But I think she may have swung too far in making her character, Alma Whittaker, not only physically unattractive but also unable to form any real relationships with the other characters in the novel. As reviewer, (Janet Maslin, NYT) remarks “Ms Gilbert has much more control over this book’s flora than it’s fauna” .

    At 500 pages it is a very ambitious project – no wonder it took 12 years. But in my humble opinion other authors have tackled similar themes with much more satisfying results. Martin Davies 2006 novel, The Conjurer’s Bird, fictionalises the life of Joseph Banks in a much more engaging manner. And Mary Burnett, the botanist in this novel aroused my empathy much more readily than Alma Whiittaker did in this.

    Award winning novelist, Ann Patchett, who according to Gilbert encouraged her to let her character roam throughout the world did a much better job doing the same thing with her young woman scientist who plunged into the Amazon jungle in Brazil in her novel, State of Wonder

    But most reviewers including the esteemed novelist, Barbara Kingsolver rate this new book very highly. Although when Kingsolver calls the book ” a bracing homage … in a world that reveals it’s best truths to the uncommonly patient minds,” I can only conclude mine is just not patient enough.

    I’m happy to send you my review copy if you have time to read it?

    Regards,
    Bernadette

    • *chuckle* That’s very kind of you, Bernadette, but if you could see my pile of books to review that are crowding out the 700+ books I have on my TBR, you would understand why I’m reluctant to take on something that doesn’t really appeal anyway. I might get to it in a year or so, but not now.


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